Four days before one of the biggest Apple Cup games in history, Washington Huskies cornerback Darren Gardenhire announced that he is leaving the team.
In a curiously timed Instagram message posted Monday morning, Gardenhire, a junior from Long Beach, California, wrote that he has decided to transfer to another school for his final year of eligibility.
A starter in 2015, Gardenhire played in a reserve role this season behind starting cornerbacks Kevin King and Sidney Jones. Gardenhire finishes the season with 13 tackles and an interception, though he did force and recover a fumble during UW’s 44-18 victory over Arizona State on Saturday.
UW coach Chris Petersen said Gardenhire’s departure is the player’s decision, and he termed it a “difference of philosophies.” Petersen did not divulge any other details.
The Seattle Times and ESPN reported that Gardenhire’s decision to leave stemmed from his refusal to take a university-mandated drug test.
Gardenhire’s wrote in his statement that leaving UW is a “tough decision” but that it is what he feels is best for his future. Gardenhire also addressed his teammates, writing: “y’all already know what y’all gotta do and that’s get everything y’all worked hard for and deserve.”
Gardenhire started nine games last season and finished with 45 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defended. But with King and Jones locking down the two starting corner spots this season, and freshman Taylor Rapp earning a starting role in UW’s nickel formation, Gardenhire was demoted to second-string.
As a true junior, he could, in theory, transfer to any FBS school and sit out one season before returning to the field as a fifth-year senior.
Friday’s game will mark Petersen’s second trip to Pullman as UW’s coach. The first came in 2014, a game the Huskies won, 31-13, in subfreezing temperatures.
So Petersen was quick to respond when asked about his memories from that game.
“Cold. That’s what I remember,” he said. “And I’ve been in a lot of cold games, and that one felt as cold as I could ever remember. I was proud of our guys to go over there and play in that cold. I thought they played hard, and I didn’t really think it affected them. But it affected me.
“I had every bit of clothing I could possibly get. I was like the Michelin Man walking around. If somebody was going to run into me on the sideline, there was no way I was going to be able to get out of the way. That was part of the risk I was willing to take.”
Petersen said he is “still hopeful” that sophomore safety Jojo McIntosh will be able to play Friday after he missed the ASU game due to an undisclosed injury. … The Huskies will practice in Seattle on Thanksgiving, Petersen said, then have a late Thanksgiving lunch before boarding a charter flight to the Palouse. … Petersen said he does not expect injured defensive stars Joe Mathis (feet) and Azeem Victor (leg) to travel with the team. Both are recovering from recent surgeries.